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Sri Lanka Exports Fall Most in 30 Months on Tea, Textiles

Sri Lanka’s exports declined the most in 30 months in March as demand for textiles, tea and rubber moderated.

Overseas sales fell 10.2 percent from a year earlier to $835.7 million, after rising 7.6 percent in February, the Central Bank of Sri Lanka said in a statement today. Imports rose 3.9 percent to $1.69 billion, for a trade deficit of $861.3 million.

Sri Lanka has sought to pare demand for imports such as oil to fight a trade shortfall exacerbated by a moderation in overseas sales as Europe’s debt crisis curbs Asian shipments. Officials have raised interest rates this year to damp credit growth, increased fuel prices and moved toward a more freely floating exchange rate, seeking to shield foreign reserves.

Expenditure on imports of refined petroleum products increased by about 18 percent as a result of higher prices, the central bank said in the statement today. Gross official foreign reserves were $5.73 billion by the end of March, equivalent to 3.3 months of imports, it said.

Textiles and garment exports in March fell 11.7 percent to $319.4 million, the central bank said. Agricultural shipments declined 10.1 percent to $203.2 million, while the value of industrial exports fell 10.9 percent to $624.2 million.

The nation has targeted exports of $11.7 billion in 2012 and expects imports of $20.9 billion, central bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal said May 8.

The rupee fell 0.3 percent to 132.40 per dollar as of 4:36 p.m. local time. The currency has tumbled about 16.2 percent so far in 2012.

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